Countess Dracula is a Hammer Horror film based somewhat loosely on the story of Elizabeth Bathory, a Hungarian Countess who, in the early 1600’s was accused of torturing and killing between 80 and 650 young girls. It was said, though not confirmed, that she bathed in the girls’ blood in the belief that it would restore her youth and beauty.
Countess Dracula centres on the blood bath story, suggesting that not only was it true, but that it was also genuinely effective. So effective, in fact, that the widowed Elizabeth has to masquerade as her daughter to explain her now youthful appearance.
The film opens with the funeral of the Count. His death doesn’t bother Elizabeth that much, as she has been carrying on a secret affair with the castle’s steward, Captain Dobi.
From the very beginning, we see the contempt the nobility shows to its people. As the Countess’ carriage rides to the castle, a poor man runs along it, asking for a job and is knocked down by Dobi in response.
This goes a long way to explaining the ease with which Elizabeth starts to kill. She first discovers the curative powers of virgin blood as she violently reprimands a servant girl for filling her bath with overly hot water. They are essentially property to her. When the mother of the servant girl expresses concern for her missing daughter, she’s told not to worry because she still has five more (in other words, the servants are cattle).
The Count leaves his prized stables and horses to one of his war buddies, Imre Toth. Toth is relatively young, and the Countess, in her rejuvenated body, lusts after him. He feels likewise, and they begin a relationship. However, the effects of the blood are short lived, and Elizabeth finds that she must keep killing to continue her relationship with Toth.
Dobi is bitter. First because he didn’t get the stables (receiving only old weapons and armor, instead), and second because the woman he loves his now with another man. To add insult to injury, Elizabeth orders Dobi to procure victims for her; victims whose blood is fueling her new relationship. Being treated with little more respect than the girls he’s ordered to kill does not sit well with him.
Despite being a horror movie, the crimes of Elizabeth are greatly toned down from the ones she is actually accused of. Of course, it was made it 1971, long before the rise of torture porn; also, Hammer was always more interested in atmosphere than they were with shock or gore. Most of the violence is off screen, but Elizabeth is an sufficiently villainous monster to keep a horrific tone over the film.